There has been much talk about the malaise plaguing record stores these days that are, as we all know, dying a slow death as a result of digital music sales and illegal file sharing. Locally, we have seen the slow die-off of neighborhood gems like Easy Street Records Queen Anne and Sonic Boom Capitol Hill. But recently an idea occurred to me...
A lot of record stores have live in-store performances once in a while. Most of us have hopefully been to one or two of these. Over the years, as a member of a bunch of bands, I have had the opportunity to actually play some of these gigs, and I did one at Easy Street Records West Seattle this last Monday with The Walking Papers. The store must have done a great job advertising this event, because it was absolutely packed. There are a few bars right on that street, and an espresso bar actually in the store itself, so by the time we played, the crowd was totally buzzed or wired, maybe both.
People get super excited about music when they are in a live music environment. We all get a bit more stoked when a live band is throwing down. Add caffeine and a little booze to the equation--like the other night at Easy Street--and people start looking through the record bins and spending money. Seems to me, for all the convenience digital music offers, as consumers and music lovers we still want something we can actually play and physically touch at after we see a live artist, perhaps just to re-live the experience. With a latte or a beer in the mix, the live music experience is even better--and from the looks of it Monday night, folks get a bit looser with the purse strings.
So here is what I’d do if I was opening a local record store, a national chain, or considering changes to an existing location: put a stage in, add a coffee bar, and sell beer. I’m serious. We need to save these places. Many of us have forgotten how cool record stores actually are, and hell, our kids don’t even really know what a record store is! The effect a good record store has on a cities’ music scene is often symbiotic--record stores help promote bands, and those bands bring in business! Record stores are the front lines where we discover new stuff and find out about older artists who have influenced what’s going on now in a knowledgeable environment that encourages learning. Like libraries. Of music. For sale.
We just cannot let these last record stores fade. They are our museums of musical culture while also being cutting edge in what is currently hip. When you go to a place like Easy Street here, or say, Vintage Vinyl in New Jersey, or Amoeba in Hollywood (all are still in business, and all have live music), you see firsthand the love of music discovery at work.
If folks actually went to these gigs at record stores that offered booze and coffee along with live music, I’m not going to go as far as to say it may save the whole dying music industry, but it may in some way help a struggling indie band sell a few more records so that they can pay for gas to get to the next gig in the next city. Maybe?
But for now Seattle, we have Easy Street and the ‘in-stores’ that they host, and that is indeed something. A really great something. It felt awesome to take part and witness a community come together through music and such a great setting for it: a fucking record store.
If my idea doesn’t take hold, hopefully someone has a better plan. If no other ideas surface, I’m terribly afraid of what will inevitably come of these last bastions of musical trade. Get to a good record store in your neighborhood soon, because if something inventive doesn’t happen soon, a visit to a record store may just be a memory.